28 March 2012

Paul's Amazing Triple Pork Torte


There are some recipes that I just look at and think, I'll never make that. It involves more than 10 pans for one recipe, it contains (a) chemicals or (b) purchased cake mix, or it contains way too many weird organ meats for my taste. Luckily, that's why I have Paul around. Because Paul is willing to take some of those leaps I won't take, and he comes up with delicious recipes like these.

So, let me start out by saying that this recipe originally called for several pounds of pig snouts. Yes, snouts. (Don't worry!! I'm not giving you a recipe for weird pig parts, just keep reading.) So after we quickly discovered the difficulty of purchasing pig snouts, we also rejected the recipe's suggested alternative of pig's feet. I had a bad pig's foot experience once and will never quite get over it.


So of course, geniuses that we are, we thought why not make a pork torte filled with delicious things like bacon! pork belly! ground pork! Sounds much better, right?


And indeed, it is. I have to say, when Paul was making this, I was mostly trepidatious because I am a petite person, and large quantities of pork fat do not sit well with my stomach. But in addition to be totally addictively delicious, this recipe was also shockingly light. Well, you know, as light as anything wrapped in puff pastry and filled with potatoes and pork can be. But in all seriousness, the leeks in the pork mixture plus the acid of mustard and vinegar really lighten the pork, and the pastry and potatoes add a starchy balance to the meat. This would make an excellent special dinner with a green salad alongside.


Paul's Amazing Triple Pork Torte
Adapted from Saveur. I bet you could make small individual size tortes for a special first course.

1 package puff pastry, defrosted (preferably Dufour brand)
1 lb pork belly
1/2 cup stock or broth (any type)
1 lb ground pork
4 thick-cut slices of bacon, diced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 shallot, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 leeks, white and light green parts sliced
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons mustard
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 medium-largish potatoes (a waxy kind like yukon gold)
butter, salt, pepper
1 egg for egg wash (optional)
equipment: 1 8" springform pan

1. Prepare the pork belly: Preheat oven to 300 F. Cut the belly into 4 or 5 thick slices and season with salt and pepper. Place the pork in a small roasting pan, fat side up, add the stock, and then add enough water so that the liquid comes half-way up the side of the pork belly. Cover the pan tightly with foil and roast for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until the meat is cooked and there is a good layer of fat on top.

2. Remove pork from the oven, and if there is still skin on the belly, peel it off at this point. Raise the oven temperature to 450F, remove the foil from the pan, and cook the pork another 20 minutes uncovered, until the fat on top is nicely crispy. Discard juices and set aside to cool.

3. Set a large pot of water to boil. Once the water boil, cook the potatoes whole until tender when pierced with a knife. Drain and set aside to cool

4. In a skillet over medium heat, add the ground pork, bacon, fennel seeds, and salt and pepper to taste. Saute, stirring occasionally and breaking up pork, until bacon is browned and crispy and ground pork is cooked through. This may take as long as 20 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pork mixture to a large bowl.

5. Drain all but one tablespoon of the fat from the skillet. Again over medium heat, saute the shallot, garlic, and leek until softened and tender. Add these to the bowl with the pork. Stir the mustard, parsley, and red wine vinegar into the pork-leek mixture. Set aside.

6. Preheat oven to 400F. Chop the pork belly and add to the pork-leek mixture.

7. Peel the potatoes and thickly slice.

8. Line the bottom of your springform pan with parchment. Unfold your puff pastry onto a floured surface. Cut the puff pastry at a 2/3 - 1/3 divide. Roll out the larger (2/3) piece until it will line the inside of your pan with a one inch overhang. Fit the pastry into the pan.

9. Fit a layer of overlapping potato slices into the bottom of the pan. Top with half the meat mixture. Repeat another layer of overlapping potato slices, the the remainder of the meat. Top with a final layer of overlapping potato slices.

10. Fold up the edge of the puff pastry over the potatoes. Roll out the second square of puff pastry and lay it on top of the torte, tucking the edges by smushing them down into the pan. Poke air vents in the top of the pastry with a knife tip (you can make a design if you like. Cut a small hole in the center of the top - roll up a 2 inch piece of parchment paper to form a 2 inch tall cone. Wedge this cone into the hole at the top of the torte as a steam vent.

11. Brush the torte with egg wash if desired, then transfer to the oven to bake for 40 minutes, until golden. Remove from oven. Let rest for 20 minutes before serving.

19 March 2012

What We've Been Cooking

DSC_0023 The beginnings of Pasta with Caramelized Onions, Chiles, Mushrooms, and Bacon

Remember all of that time we were absent? Well, we did do some cooking then, and I wanted to share some of the recipes we've enjoyed in the past few months.

Diana Kennedy's Carnitas - Before there was Bobby Flay or Rick Bayless, Diana Kennedy taught my mother's generation what Mexican food was all about. Her recipes are clearly written and deceptively simple. These carnitas are amazing - we glazed them with a bit of lime and brown sugar, served them at our holiday party, and watched them disappear.

Fennel Gratin - I have been making this for the past two winters, and I keep meaning to post about it here. While anything slathered in cream and roasted is bound to be pretty good, this really goes above and beyond. It has been known to convert many a fennel-hater to the dark side.

Pear Soup with Blue Cheese and Bacon - This soup is seriously awesome. It is however, seriously more awesome if you make it with celeriac instead of the potatoes. The celeriac runs perfect counter to the sweetness of the pears. We served this as a first course for a dinner party - we passed the blue cheese around the table so people could add as much or as little as they liked.

Italian Sausage and Kale Gratin - LATimes's best recipe of the year, this is certainly rich and undeniably satisfying. What I really liked about this dish was that it's a great new way to incorporate kale, which I so often just end up sauteeing or stewing. For a lighter version of this dish, try substituting white beans for the sausage (be sure the beans are firm-tender, not mushy).

Dal with Poached Eggs, Cilantro, and Yogurt
- Think of this more as a guideline than a recipe, but this is exactly the sort of thing I love to make for a quick weeknight dinner. Plus, Paul is an excellent egg poacher, and I'll eat almost anything with yogurt on top of it. This works with yellow, orange, or red lentils.

11 March 2012

Rutabaga Caponata

rutabaga caponata

By about March most people, particularly die-hard farmer's market shoppers, are getting pretty tired of root vegetables. Even I'm ready for some new things, and I can eat sweet potatoes, braised red cabbage, and baked apples ad infintum. One of the nice things about our local year-round farmer's market is that the root vegetable selection is very broad-- different kinds of beets, sunchokes, kohlrabi, celeriac, turnips, radishes, purple potatoes, parsnips, and rutabagas are available.

I do like those more unusual root vegetables, they're a great way to mix up your weekly starch intake, and they usually take nicely to being roasted or sliced into a gratin or pureed into a potato mash.

However, I'm often at a loss on how to use rutabaga and kohlrabi in particular. Turnips have a certain bitter profile that stands up nicely to richness (alongside duck and apples) or sweetness (roasted with a maple glaze). Celeriac has a celery-ness that's familiar and works awesomely pureed into soups, sunchokes are one of my favorite roast vegetable side dishes, and cook quickly to boot.

But a rutabaga? Well, it's just sort of very hard and reminds of a turnip. So when I happened upon a recipe for Rutabaga Caponata is was excited to try it out. Plus, the recipe is from DC's Komi Restaurant, where I took Paul for his birthday when we'd just begun dating. And the recipe? It's pretty great, it has a nice sweet-sour balance going on, with the heft of a roast root vegetable at it's base. I've tweaked the recipe a bit, but don't be put off by the unusual ingredients, they really work.

rutabaga caponata

Rutabaga Caponata
Adapted from Komi Restaurant. Don't be alarmed by the cocoa powder, it is not distinguishable and merely adds a bit of depth a earthiness to the mixture (see here for more info on the classic caponata). This is a great winter side dish.

2 small rutabagas, peeled and cut into 1/2" dice
olive oil, salt, pepper
1 onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup diced prunes
1 tablespoon golden raisins
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes or Aleppo pepper
1-2 tablespoons sugar (to taste)
1-1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon grated bittersweet chocolate or cocoa powder

1. Preheat the oven to 415 F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, place the diced rutabagas on the sheet and toss with olive oil and salt to coat. Roast for about 40 minutes or until they are tender and lightly browned on the outside. Set aside to cool.

2. In a large pan over medium heat, heat some olive oil, add the onion and cook, stirring, until it is soft and beginning to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Then add the garlic, raisins, and prunes, stirring to mix.

3. Add the balsamic vinegar, scraping the pan to deglaze it and incorporate the addition. Add the roasted rutabaga, pine nuts, red pepper flakes, sugar to taste, cinnamon, nutmeg and chocolate or cocoa powder. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.